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Fantasy NASCAR race preview: Ford EcoBoost 400
By Eric McClung
It took several makeovers to get the racing at Homestead-Miami Speedway just right. After a failed attempt to produce 1.5-mile version of the rectangular Indianapolis Motor Speedway, track officials would finally settle on a more traditional oval design with progressive corner banking and flat straightaways. What stayed the same are the splashy, art deco-inspired colors used throughout the venue or the numerous season-ending races the track hosts for various forms of motorsports, including all three major NASCAR touring series.
Practice sessions: Friday, Nov. 16 at 1:30 pm EDT, Saturday, Nov. 17 at 1:00 pm EDT, 3:00 pm ET
Drivers to keep an eye on
Last year at Homestead, Keselowski qualified fifth and ran well with an average running position of ninth after pacing 11 laps. Now up 20 points in the standings, Keselowski just needs to avoid disaster to earn his first championship. The Blue Deuce has finished no worse than 11th during the Chase in addition to adding two more wins and has been excellent on 1.5-mile tracks this season. While Keselowski doesn't need a strong finish, it's hard to imagine his team suddenly mailing one in and not going for win No. 6.
Over the last four races of the Chase, Kahne has earned two poles, three finishes inside the top five. Like most 1.5-mile tracks, Kahne has been solid at Homestead with four finishes of seventh or better since 2006. He's also been excellent in qualifying, scoring two poles and an average starting position of 7.2 in eight career starts.
In half a dozen trips to Homestead, Bowyer has tallied four finishes of 12th or better. His career average running position of 13.1 has Bowyer sixth among all drivers. Of course, the fired up No. 15 crew might be more interested in retaliating by taking Jeff Gordon out following their blowup at Phoenix International Raceway. Assuming cooler heads prevail Bowyer stands to finish the season with seven top-10s in the Chase.
With nine top-10s in 11 career starts at Homestead, Harvick has knack for ending the season on a high note. Even though he's never won here Harvick has three podium finishes since 2008 while holding an average running position of ninth or better in all four. Harvick won his first race of the season last week after spending much of the season finishing just inside the top 15.
After qualifying on the outside pole last week Truex had his engine give out almost right away and left him to finish in last place. Fortunately, he has an excellent chance to close the season right at Homestead. Truex has finished 11th or better in five straight and held a career-best average running position of fourth last year.
Despite an average running position of 12th or better in four straight starts at Homestead, Busch has only managed a single top-15 in that time. Even though he failed to make the Chase, Rowdy has been performing like he belonged with five top-five finishes over the last six starts. Busch also had no issues with starting position thanks to four straight starts on the first two rows.
In addition to coming off his second top-five of the Chase, Newman has finished 12th or better in three straight races. At Homestead he's been equally steady with a seventh-place result in 2010 and a 12th-place finish last year.
Since taking over the No. 78 car, Busch has a respectable average finish of 15.4 and has finished eighth in each of the last two races. He has held an average running position of 19th or better in all five starts. Busch has been very hit or miss at Homestead with one win and four top-fives in 11 career starts but an average of 30.9 in the other seven other races.
Temper your expectations
Last year's Chase magic has been nowhere to be found for Stewart this season. After beginning the postseason with a pair top-10s he's only added two more in the last seven. Smoke won this race a year ago and has three top-10s since 2008 at Homestead.
With an average finish of 5.2 in eight career starts at Homestead, Edwards would be an automatic start if he wasn't nearly done with the worst season of his career. Since 2008 Edwards has two wins and a runner-up performance with an average of 155.3 laps led in those races. However, over the last 23 races of the season Edwards has just one top-five and five top-10s.
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